I had the opportunity to spend last week at the Gartner Symposium ITxPO 2013 in Orlando. It was a well-organized event with an impressive stream of information across a breadth of topics. Hearing and contemplating predictions about the future of IT with leaders from around the world was an amazing experience. In the midst of such a large quantity of important and relevant information one particular discussion captured not just my imagination but also my heart: the Wednesday morning mastermind keynote, given by Chris Hughes, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic and Facebook Co-founder.
Chris comes from a liberal arts background and is not a technologist in the traditional sense. An interesting choice at a Gartner Symposiuim conference, right? Of course, having been a co-founder at Facebook, he can claim to know a bit about technology. What I found intriguing during his presentation, was his exploration of the “why” around technology and the ways in which technology can better serve humanity. I also truly enjoyed his thoughts on the importance of liberal arts education in developing adaptive, well-round humans with empathy, people-skills, and life balance.
During an interview with Robert Safian, Editor and Managing Director of Fast Company magazine, Chris gave his thoughts about the future of journalism, long-form articles, and print media (or “dead-tree media” as he called it). Chris described how very critical this form of communication is to our culture as we go through the transition to become an equally digital world. Print subscriptions and readership at The New Republic are up by tens of thousands since Chris took his position. He has invested deeply in multiple forms of digital content and tools. This effort has built up the base of unique visitors to The New Republic site to over 3M per month.
Chris also took the time to tell about another startup, Jumo, he was a part of that failed. It was based on the premise of connecting NGOs and volunteers. They started with impressive numbers of NGOs and users being added but failed over time because of a lack of engagement…or rather content that would keep them engaged.
Long-form, well-constructed content is still incredibly important in shaping the future of our cultures and “influencing the influential”. This is part of the underlying mission that Chris described for The New Republic. Chris wants to shape thought through content, and drives The New Republic with distinction, leaning towards his liberal viewpoints. Whether that matches with your viewpoint or not, it is interesting to see him put his investment and clout behind the development of content.
As the line between IT and all other departments and initiatives blurs, we will all bare the weight of organizing and utilizing information better than we ever have. It becomes even more important that we ensure that technology enables the good at work and in the world outside of the workplace.
After all, the real struggle is still to make life better and richer, not just add another block of servers in a new data center.
At the Gartner symposium conference as I looked through the Google Glass, which has a content area of less than a square inch, and wondered about the capability and future of such technologies. Along with the future of content, I realized I was looking first and foremost through my human eyes and then through the lenses of technology and that is exactly how I want to live my life and inspire my team.